HEALTH and leisure centres across the New Forest could be run by a private firm under proposals being examined by civic chiefs.

The five centres currently managed by New Forest District Council will be handed over to a commercial operator if the scheme goes ahead.

The council is looking at ways of cutting costs and is striving to find a cheaper way of running the centres.

One of the main options under discussion would involve an outside organisation managing the buildings at Applemore, Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood and Totton.

The council would retain ownership but the new operator would be in charge of staff and income as well as many of the bills.

As reported in the Daily Echo, Dibden Golf Centre has already been handed over Mytime Active, which has been awarded a 30-year contract.

Now the future of leisure centres is also being reviewed as the council struggles to cope with a huge drop in government funding.


A council spokesman said: "We are continuing our review of how we run our health and leisure centres in order to provide a high quality, sustainable leisure service which covers its own costs without needing to be subsidised by the council.

"We have considered a range of options.

"We believe that finding a partner to deliver our leisure services will be the best way forward but we need to carry out further research to establish if this option is feasible and beneficial."

The spokesman said the partnership option "could be delivered by the private sector".

The proposal has sparked fears that a commercial operator would try to make the centres more viable by cutting staff and hiking prices.

Cllr David Harrison, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said the Tory-run authority had been examining the future of leisure centres for two years without making significant progress.

He added: “It’s the district equivalent of Brexit.

“All the time they keep reviewing the situation it makes staff and volunteers anxious about the future of the centres and jobs.”

But Cllr James Binns, cabinet member for leisure, said: “Our focus throughout this project is to secure the future of our excellent leisure centres.

“Having centres that continue to be fit for purpose is what is driving our work, as we know the valuable contribution they make to the wellbeing of our customers.

“We are open-minded about what that approach may look like.”